Christmas Gift Giving

Updated on November 03, 2010
J.P. asks from Georgetown, TX
25 answers

This year and for the next few years I really want to cut back on how much I spend for Christmas. We have (will have - 35 wks preggo) 2 LOs this Christmas and I will be on maternity leave without pay. Plus - I really want to start paying down debt and start saving for a house. For the last couple of years this has been my xmas list:

Parents x2
SO's brother
SO's mother
Friends x5
Friend's children x4
Co-workers x2

On top of that we have several birthdays in November, December & January - 11!

I spent close to 2K within those three months last year =( So this year I want to simplify gift giving. Anyone have any suggestions? My SO thinks we should just get presents for the kids. I'm thinking just birthday presents to each of the above with birthdays and just presents for our own children for xmas - is that being to stingy? I also would like to get something for my SO but he thinks we can just buy our own. Thoughts on this too?

I'm so used to buying gifts for everyone and I'm feeling guilty just thinking about making this change, but I really want to be out of debt and in a larger house within the next couple of years.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

OMG - thank you guys for your responses. I've lived with guilt about gift giving for Christmas for years. I always felt like I had to get something for everyone. Not that I minded as I do enjoy picking out gifts. When I was single, it wasn't such an issue since I only had a couple close friends and family. But now, it's like my list has tripled - quadrupled even if you consider all the birthdays! I thought about doing the cookies/baking-thing, but considering I will be home with a 3 year old and a newborn on maternity leave - I don't want to count on that. I think I will do what some of you have suggested and just mention that we need to stop the madness and just focus on our own children. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you all for helping me with my guilt!

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answers from Dallas on

i buy presents for the kids and i will gonna make or buy cookies or chocolates i don't know yet and put in some nice plate and give to friends and family members(adult)


i buy presents for the kids and i will gonna make or buy cookies or chocolates i don't know yet and put in some nice plate and give to friends and family members(adult)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

When money was tight for us I gave a lot of homemade gifts. Every year I still make batches of cookies and home made biscotti, they are a big hit. There are tons of ideas online that are easy and cheap for creative homemade gifts. Everything from candles and soap to herb infused oils. I would suggest to consider doing some creative home made gifts for the adults and 1 bought gift for the children. (You can't leave them out!) People understand that money is tight this year, for a lot of people. It's always the thought that counts and buying something at the store to me is not as thoughtful as something homemade.

Michaels has lots of small boxes and packages that are pretty cheap. I used the ones that look like take out boxes for home made fudge one year.

Good luck and have fun!



answers from Corpus Christi on

Been there done that, the best thing I found was to give family gifts, make up a basket with things small that can be for one for several people, hot chocolate, homemade cookies, candy, a candle even a toy for the family pet. I found that anything that is homemade like cookies is something that everyone likes.

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answers from Boston on

I would just do gifts for the kids. Once we had kids, we suggested it and it was like...a relief!!! It is one of those things you don't want to mention it, but then when someone does, everyone is more than happy with that. We still buy for each other (husband and I) but set a $100 limit and we buy for my parents and that's about it. His parents have passed. We don't buy for aunts and uncles, cousins, is just too much. I've even cut it out with friends. We just don't have the money. I do buy for my childrens' godparents. Most people I find are almost relieved when I mention about not exchanging anymore. If you still want to do, cookies, still a nice gift. I love the people who give christmas cookies. I usually don't have the time to make that many and it is such a treat to get a tray of assorted homemade christmas cookies. to me, it is such an underrated gift.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If many of the recipients are in/around your area maybe you could have a Christmas potluck with games and a white elephant type gift exchange.

Each person could bring a card, their favorite dish, and a small gift for the exchange. The memories created would last a lifetime in comparison to a material gift. The people that don't know each other could mingle and converse, the kids could play, the gift exchange could take place and then they all get to go home happy and sated. You would be out of pocket the sum total of a food item, maybe some drinks, and a small gift.

Hope this helps. :-)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Well, I am the queen of cheap. For friends, etc. I have a dinner party, no gift exchanging. That is just the cost of food & beverages. I usually do Italian food as most of the ingredients are cheap. For parents, I usually go and have the children's portraits done and buy frames from the Dollar Store. Instant gifts and you have an updated photo every year. My siblings and I draw names. We have a cap of $ 20.00. For the adults, we do "couples" and usually buy restaurant gift cards. The cap for the children is $ 20.00 and we throw their names in a hat as well. Since we only have our Mother, Father & StepMom & Grandmother left, we each take one of those. All in all I spend around $ 120.00 every year for my family, (3 sisters, 5 children between us plus parents, etc.) We are in a recession and most people are very receptive to saving money. As far as getting out of debt, I recommend you read "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. Awesome book! cb

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We're very fortunate to not have any debt or financial issues and we don't give so many gifts!! Your friends' kids?? Are you kidding? No friends give my kids holiday gifts and we don't give any either. We also did away with adult gifts a long time ago. Each adult in each family picks one adult and buys just that gift. My husband and I do exchange gifts. It wasn't so much about the money versus the stress finding so many gifts created. When I hear about people having to buy all these things, it strikes me as crazy. And I hate to say it and no offense but typically the people I hear this from are the ones who can least afford it. So it's not stingy to eliminate a lot of those people and maybe just bake cookies for those you can't. Starting trending the expectations down.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I see a lot of people suggested giving homemade cookies as gifts. I love baking and I give trays of cookies to family, friends and coworkers... but I believe you said that you are 35 weeks pregnant - so I can't imagine that baking cookies is top on your to-do list right now.
I think while it's still early, you should really talk with some of these people about cutting back this year, or eliminating a gift exchange completely. I've had this talk with some family and friends in the past and everyone has always been agreeable. I know I would feel uncomfortable if someone bought me a gift and I didn't have anything for them. That's why I would discuss it now before everyone starts their shopping.
And I agree with one of the other moms who said that she shops at sales all year long and saves the gifts for Christmas and future birthdays. I have saved money that way, plus the gift spending is spread out over the year instead of jammed into 3 months.
Whatever you decide to do, best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

You just tell people, you have a restricted budget this year.... gifts only for the kids.

Or, do a grab bag type thing.
Or pull names.

The point being, you NEED to reduce your x-mas shopping list.

For me, I have and my friends have, always told each other about our budget restrictions. We only get for the kids. Or, just 1 gift for the "family" type thing... it being a gift basket or something.

I have friends with several kids... and plus with my kids, I simply CANNOT buy Christmas gifts for everyone.
AND, for me and my friends, we don't buy x-mas gifts for each other, only each other's kids, if anything.

For co-workers.... just get a basket for the "office."

OR, you just have to pick a certain dollar amount, to spend on everyone... so that your overall expenditures... are not so huge.
2K for gifts last year... is a TON of money, in 3 months!

I also shop throughout the year, looking for sales, and stock up... for the upcoming birthdays/holidays etc.

You do NOT have to buy gifts for everyone.

all the best,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on


If those around you truly care and want to be supportive, they will back you 100%... matter a fact, most will insist you NOT get the gifts.. a year or so... without gifts so that you can get your finances in order needs to be priority..
IF you must give gifts.. don't give them to adults.. they can live without them for sure.. but IF you want to do something, make them a basket of goodies..such as cookies or something to that effect.
What's most important here is (As you already have) realizing you have a baby on the way and they cost a ton of money.... it's best now to get the debt paid off..
as for SO... no, don't buy for that either.. you can make a special dinner or something..
it took me a long time to stop OVER buying. at first I felt guilty ..but you know... after awhile, you train yourself.. don't let yourself get caught up in the buying frenzy.. you will be a better role model for your kids if you aren't in debt, right? so start now..... you ll be glad you did....
p.s. check out dave ramsey books, he has good advice for debt.

best of luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Something I did about three years ago with friends has been really helpful. Basically is was getting too hard to shop for them. They had everything! And how many lotions and candles can one person use? So I just asked if we could change it up. Instead we go out for a meal together. Some place different, not a chain. We also agree to go dutch and wait until Feb or later (in your case, maybe after the baby is born). In one case it's the whole family, in a few others I get a night out without kids. We go dutch. This saves money, stress and time. Then, after the holidays we get some real quality time together. My friends and I are already looking forward to our "dates".

A few of us are carrying it over to our kids a little. Instead of exchanging gifts we have decided to go do something Christmasy together with the kids. We have a few fun options on the table and they will all be less expensive than toys and more fun.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

We have gone to a kids only Christmas too! It gets so expensive so quick! We have 4 kids and that alone cost a small fortune at Christmas. I will get my mom something small- the rest of our parents have passed away. I dont buy for friends or their kids, no brothers sisters etc.... Everyone understands. As for me and my husband- I cant remember the last time we had a big Christmas for "us" We usually set a 50.00 limit for each other- we pretty much get what we want thru the year anyways. My youngest also has a birthday 4 days after Christmas- but we always make that a seperate and special Holiday. I think you are right on for the birthday gifts only for friends and extended family and just buy for your kids. Most people are in the same situation as you.



answers from Dallas on

For this year I would just buy gifts for your kids, do maybe a $5 - $10 birthday gift to the others, and for everyone (except kids) for Christmas - write a nice letter to each one telling them how much they mean to your family. My brother did that one year when he was going through school and had no money. I still have it and it is still one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. As far as co-workers and friends go - we quite exchanging gifts a long time ago. No one has the money and it works great for everyone. If you really want to do something - do several kinds of cookies or deserts and make a nice platter (can be paper) and take to them.



answers from College Station on

For extended family gifts for Christmas time, just give them an updated family picture inside a card. For friends/co workers, home made items such as cookies, or a jar o brownies per say, is always charming to receive. I agree gift giving after all the ribbons, shopping and bows gets quite expensive. The ideas I suggest would cut down on shopping which means getting out in a store to shop. And for the cards buy in bulk the seasonal after season specials go buy a few boxes of clearanced cards, and bulk boxes of birthday cards. To spice the look up get some ribbon and maybe some nice personalized scrapping stickers to personalize the character of the card. I'm serious, I love getting the specialized home made over anything. It makes me feel special like they took the time for me to make it, and if it's something you enjoy doing then it's gonna be that much more fun!



answers from Austin on

Be careful how you describe this change so that you don't offend someone who doesn't see it as "madness." There are some out there who look forward to this time of year because it is a time to show we care. When my family decided to stop doing a gift exchange, I was so saddened as I didn't realize what a huge "burden" it was on everyone. Everyone described it like pure torture. I never saw it like that since we gave small gifts when money was tight or non-purchased gifts. (Our kids' favorite memories include the years we gave each other 3 gift-wrapped "coupons" that said things like, "20-minute massage") In our extended family, I am suggesting that this year we each give a CD of our family photos to everyone else.



answers from Austin on

OMG, we have the same problem with the Christmas madness. But it's like if we don't give a gift to my husbands family members, it's like we are looked down upon. It's nuts. Even a couple years ago when I was unemployed, we were expected to give gifts. Our house payment is eating us alive, we are a month behind and it's so hard at Christmas for me to grit my teeth and spend what little we can spare. People need to lighten up on their expectations. The economy is tough, and it's not a time to be frivolous. So anyway, that's my rant :-). I wish I had some advice for you, and I have suggested the baking thing to my husband and he thinks that makes us look cheap. Yes we live in a big house, but that was purchased 4 years ago in MUCH better times. Their assumptions that we are rolling in it are wrong, and we can't make 'em understand that. My husbands in sales, ain't nobody buying nothing! Grrr.



answers from Houston on

We were at this point several years ago and decided to do alternative gifts. I even got my brother and sisters (and their kiddos) involved and we've had the best time ever. One year we all decided to only buy gifts from garage sales. This was one of my favorite year, it was great to see all the bargains people found at garage sales!

Another year we did all homemade gifts. This was fun as well. Yes, some were really crafty but others put their computer skills to work making family scrapbooks or scanning in old photos and making a CD set to music. We found an old camping lantern of my grandfathers and made it a decorative items complete with pictures for my dad. Or found old recipes of grandparents and other family members and made cookbooks. The possibilities are endless! Not to!

Anyway, have fun with whatever you decide to do and trust your friends and family to understand.

Happy Holidays!
C. H.



answers from Washington DC on

I think Christmas is for kids and would concentrate on them. For the adults? Cookies, cookies, cookies! Who doesn't like receiving cookies? And you and your DD could drive around delivering them one night and start a new tradition.



answers from Dallas on

How about making something for your friends and co workers? That would cut out 7 people right there. Have your kids make something (dough ornaments, picture frames or something) for the friend's children cutting out 4 more.
What has helped me and my husband is we set a limit person we buy for and we also set a limit for what we spend on our own kids. I bet your parents would love pictures of your kids or even a maternity picture of you instead of a store bought item. Just a thought.

Glad Luck and Congrats



answers from Odessa on

When the commercial aspects of the holiday got to be too much, I started having the members of my immediate family to write letters to everybody for Christmas. It has become a big thing to get the "Christmas Letter". Everybody writes their own and they try to put into the branches of the tree without being seen. When the girls were younger they enjoyed making personalized stationery with markers and stickers, etc. The letters becamse keepsakes and we would each get our bounty of letters from the tree and go and read them. The sentiments expressed are priceless and gifts were a pitiful second to the joy and love expressed in writing in the letters. It's been one of the best things that we have ever done and we continue it to this day and bring new family members aboard once they learn to read and write.

For outside persons, I would just give a nice card. If they are truly friends, they will understand that the joy of the season is not something you can wrap and they would want you to be able to get into a home for your growing family.

Best wishes for the holiday.



answers from College Station on

Buy gifts for your own kids and bake something for everyone else. Our family decided long ago that adults do not get gifts except on birthdays. Now, SO should get a gift for his mom, but not his brother. You can all be adult about it and all decide that adults do not get gifts or you can kindly explain that with the new baby everything is tight. They will understand.



answers from Victoria on

Our family does a "Gift Excange". All of the adults bring one gift about forty dollars worth. Then we all draw numbers say 1-20. Number one picks a gift from the pile we made in the middle of the room. Number two can either steal number ones gift or pick from the pile. Number three can either steal number one or two or pick from the pile. This goes on untill number twenty which can pick from anyones gift. Each gift can be "stolen" no more than three times. On the tird time it stays with that person. We use stickers to keep up with the steals. Then number one gets to pick from everyones gift and the "game" is over. We only have six kids and usually get them something simple. Since you all have such a large group of kids you could do a kid friendly " Exchange Game".Another thing we recently do is draw names between my imediate family. My parents, my brothers, the inlaws and myself. We draw a name and then spend a limit (usually 100). (kids gift ideas, sidewalk chalk, crayons, dry erase markers, sketch book, playdough, water color paints, bubbles, jump ropes). you could also do a home made food basket. my hubby makes a great salsa, throw some chips, home made bread, deserts perhaps a small cook book and give to everyone.



answers from San Antonio on

Another viewpoint, maybe some of the people on the list have been wanting to do the same thing!! Sometimes giving others gifts makes them think they are supposed to give back.
Unless you have the biggest grin on your face watching them open it, I just would not do it. You can surprise them later by picking up a surprise tab at a meal/movie/etc.
Showing love for others can be anytime of the year-not just December!!



answers from Reno on

I know what you mean, it is really stressful trying to buy for everyone. It takes the fun out of Christmas. I have started baking yummy treats for gifts. My sister in law makes cookie dough and gives it out, which I really love because I can put it in the freezer and use it later. Also for some of the kids I have to buy for it has become a tradition that I get them an ornament, they love this! And I love it too because it is inexpensive. Another place to pick up inexpensive gifts that people love is Scentsy wickless candles. I gave these out one year and it was a big hit. The next year I decided to sell them and, it more than paid for my Christmas. Good luck and enjoy the holidays!


answers from Oklahoma City on

um...i havn't bought gifts for anyone except my husband and kids, if someone wants to buy for my kids in addition to theirs, that's on them but i cannot return the buy for list includes : husband, kids, and if they can be found cheap, mom's and dad's, other than to everyone else

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